Super Chevy Interviews Jim Campbell

Chevrolet is currently racing in more series with more kinds of cars than at any time in its 101-year history, and Jim Campbell is the man in charge.

SC: Greg Anderson, Jason Line and others have just switched over their NHRA Pro Stock bodies from the Pontiac GXP to the new Camaro, and they're already having some success, first and second in the points race. How's the Pro Stock program going?
JC: So far, so good. We just missed getting the win at the Summit Racing event at Norwalk with the Summit Racing Camaro teams. We just have to work on consistency and improvement from week to week. With a brand new body, they're still looking for all the way to tune it in and refine the performance. I think we've got a lot of upside in Pro Stock.

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SC: Would you consider working with an NHRA Funny Car team and with the NHRA technical people to develop a Camaro Funny Car body?
JC: Our first priority was to get the COPO Camaro program going for Stock Eliminator and then the ZL1 program for Super Stock, and then the new Camaro bodies for NHRA Pro Stock. There are no announcements to make as to where we're heading with Funny Car, but I think that there's a possibility of getting into that category. It would make sense. It would help us on awareness all the way through that series.

SC: Even though they're currently leading the points race, the factory ALMS Corvette team run out of Pratt & Miller has not had a very good run since the consolidation of ALMS GT classes and the advent of the new widebody cars, either at home or at Le Mans, which they practically owned previously. Can you fill us in on some of the background in ALMS GT that has made it so difficult for such an experienced team to struggle so mightily?
JC: We won two races in 2011 under the new rules, one of which was the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where we beat Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and others. When you win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and beat those kinds of competitors, it says a lot about our team and the focus they had, to win the 24 Hours. We've been there 13 times and won our class seven times. The American Le Mans Series is a highly competitive series. The GT category is the most competitive I have seen it in many years. If you were to evaluate the competitive set, which we do every week, looking for ways to beat them, it's a tough competitive set. There is no team that's going to run away with it. For one thing, the sanctioning body keeps the performance envelope of each car very tight, and they are very disciplined about it. The brands, and the teams, are all very competitive. Every win we get in ALMS is well-earned and savored. When we don't win, it's all about how we respond. Obviously, we did not win Le Mans this year, which was extremely disappointing, but, I will tell you that, when I watched the team respond to the challenges we had during that race, I was very proud of the way they responded in moments when many teams give up. This team did not give up. Whether we win or lose on the track, we take away learnings about how we can improve the Corvette in aerodynamics, lightweighting of parts, driver systems, reliability and durability of components. What makes great sports cars at the track makes great sports cars for the street. I've watched the Corvette team since we introduced it in 1999, and I was there at their first race at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

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SC: The Chevrolet Cruze is being raced in the World Touring Car Championship series in Europe, winning the driver's and manufacturer's championships by huge margins two years in a row in 2010-2011, but does it have any potential here in the U.S. in road racing or even rallycross?
JC: That program is run by Chevrolet Europe, and my responsibilities are here in North America, but I do coordinate with the program manager of that program. We've won both the driver's and manufacturer's championships in the WTCC two years in a row, and we're leading the points in both categories this year. But there was a recent decision that this will be the last year for that program, so the total focus is on winning both titles. We're excited, because there will be a WTCC round at Infineon in Sonoma, California this September. But we will be ending that program at the end of this season. We have had a lot of great learnings on that program, and we've created a lot of awareness of the Chevrolet Cruze around the world with it. The Cruze is now the highest-selling individual Chevrolet nameplate around the world, with over a million units sold around the world. But I think running the new Chevrolet Sonic in a B-Spec series in five or six different series will be something we will be looking at, and we're also looking at global rallycross.

SC: Chevrolet engines have reappeared in Indycar in 2012 for the first time in many years, and they continue to be successful. Can Ilmor Engineering keep up with the increasing demand for more power, more torque and more supply of these engines this year and next?
JC: First, we are thrilled to be back in Indycar. It goes all the way back to the beginning of our heritage with the Chevrolet brothers at Indy in 1911 and Gaston Chevrolet's win at Indy in 1920. Being back in open-wheel racing is very exciting. In our recent history there we had 104 wins in open-wheel racing, and seven wins at the Indianapolis 500, so it's great to be back. I'm very, very pleased with the progress of our engine development. We won the first four races of the season with the new Chevrolet Indy engine, and we've won seven of the first ten races. Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Toronto and took over the points lead. But we're paranoid about the competition (from Honda and Lotus), so we push every single day. It's about power, fuel efficiency, and durability, as well as getting engine integration with the chassis so the drivers can drive the new car as fast as possible.

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